As we know : poems by John Ashbery

By John Ashbery

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The tower is beaded with sweat that Has smiled down on our effort For so long. The lovers saunter away. It is a mild day in May. With music and birdsong alway And the hope of love in the way The sleeve detaches itself from the body As the two bodies do from the throng of gay Lovers on the prowl that do move and sway In the game of sunrise they play For stakes no higher than the gray Ridge of loam that protects the way Around the graveyard that sexton worm may Take to the mound Death likes to stay Near so as to be able to slay The lovers who humbly come to pray Him to pardon them yet his stay Of execution includes none and they lay Hope aside and soon disappear.

There is a limit to what the wilderness Can accomplish on its own, and meanwhile, Back in civilization, you don’t seem to be Doing too well either: those flying Bits of newspaper and plastic bags scarce Bode better for him who sits and picks at The secret, when suddenly The meaning knocks him down, a light bulb Appears in a balloon above his head: it had nothing To do with what the others were thinking, what Energies they poured into the mould of their Collective statement. It was only As a refugee from all this that living Were possible if at all, but it cast no shadow, No reflection in the mirror, and was nervous And waifed, so strong was the shuttle Of accurate presentiment plying directly Between it and the discarded past.

Not, Not certainly, the faces and pleasures Encrusted in it, the “beautifully varied streets,” The wicked taunting us to some kind of action, Any kind, with hands partially covering Their faces, to hide or to mock us, or both. No, these things are part of time, Or are rather a kind of parallel tide, A related activity. And the markings? Some say that the measuring of time Is a recognition of what it is, but I think the things that are in it Are more like it, though not quite it. Actually what is in it is controlled And colored by the units of measuring it.

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